Britain’s Association of Chief Police Officers is lobbying for the creation of a 3,000-strong counter-terrorism border force, to be made up of a special branch of uniformed officers.
Somehow, I cannot imagine that this will be a welcome development for travellers. Sure, I want Britain to keep out terrorists, gangsters, drug-thugs and the like. And we have a UK Border Agency already, charged with managing border control, enforcing immigration and customs regulations, and dealing with citizenship and asylum. It’s a wide brief, to be sure, but that at least moderates its behaviour. My fear is that when an ‘elite’ counter-terrorism force gets put in charge, travellers to the UK will be viewed with suspicion as potential terrorists, rather than welcomed with enthusiasm as potential tourists or traders.
I just have this vision of perfectly innocent families who have some glitch on their passport being marched off by heavies in riot gear to be generally inconvenienced and intimidated. When you give exceptional powers to public officials, they do have a habit of using them indiscriminately. Local authorities’ use of surveillance against litter-louts and wheelie-bin rule-breakers is an example. But at least local authority officers don’t tote Heckler & Koch MP5s.